Start-up targets top-tier niche market

Three young professionals have come together to provide skilled, experienced workers with freelance jobs and their client companies with the expertise they need for specific projects.

Scelo Makhathini (30), a chartered accountant; Lerato Manaka (25), a human resources specialist; and Eugene de Beer (28), an IT expert, have developed an innovative way for highly skilled, retired or unemployed professionals to earn money doing freelance projects, without the time and legal constraints of ordinary employment.

Makhathini and De Beer, former colleagues at a leading auditing firm, founded LinkdPro, a digital platform, after noticing a gap in the market.

Makhathini and Manaka told City Press that the initiative was proving a hit with some of the biggest companies listed on the JSE.

Computer algorithms are embedded on the online platform, enabling a candidate to be matched with a suitable project within 48 hours.

The client company chooses a prospective consultant, and then LinkdPro contacts him or her to arrange an interview.

Once the two parties agree on terms and a fee, LinkdPro manages that relationship and receives a portion of that fee.

“We realised that there was demand for specialised expertise for a lot of projects,” said Makhathini.

“This was because experts in a company wanted to free up their time from having to do the ordinary stressful jobs. Our platform provides companies with that flexibility.”

Another element that sets LinkdPro apart from traditional labour brokers and job agencies is the fact that the company targets only niche market personnel, such as management strategy consultants, commercial lawyers, ex-investment bankers, industry experts and business executives.

“People want flexibility; they are moving away from the rigid 9-to-5 work regimen,” said Makhathini.

“Gone is the term ‘work-life balance’. There is now a new term: work-life flexibility. We are giving people a platform that gives them options.”

Makhathini said the service filled the gap between the supply and demand of highly skilled specialists for top-tier firms.

Manaka described the process involved: “As soon the company representative sees the consultant they want, they simply click on an icon.

We then contact their chosen consultant to schedule an interview.”

Manaka said the company’s vetting process included doing background checks.

“We are not rigid about our vetting process but very fluid.”

While skilled professionals are given the chance to freelance on projects needing their expertise, client companies have the benefit of not having to hire these specialists on a full-time basis.

Makhathini said LinkdPro made its money by receiving a commission from the project fee, an amount agreed to by the professional consultant and the client company.

“Our clients are some of the biggest companies on the JSE,” said Makhathini.

Given LinkdPro’s function of connecting top professionals with project-based freelance work, there is concern that professionals may be “auctioned off” in situations where there is a scramble for certain specialised skills.

“We will never do that,” said Makhathini.

“There is a lot of transparency in our model. We just facilitate the process; we do not play a part in it.”

Manaka said the platform was properly monitored and that there were pre-agreements between parties.

In addition, the company remained vested in the project until it ended.

“We make sure the consultant is professional at all times, from being at work on time to performing the task at hand,” he said.

The trio has initiated another digital platform.

It is similar to LinkdPro, but targeted at finance professionals such as chartered accountants, investment bankers and chief financial officers.

Called Octopusgroup, it has also proven popular among some of the companies in the financial sector.

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